I've been self-employed for about a year and a half and working from home for the majority of this time. Naturally, I've learned a few things along the way. I've had ups and downs. There's been months when I loved my work situation and months when it was really depressing. Overall, I've been happy with my decision. Although I wish I'd known a few more things going into it:
I address this first because it was a huge factor for me, and one that I underestimated in a huge way. Prior to becoming self-employed, I'd always had enjoyable jobs where I loved my co-workers, got along with my bosses, and made great friends in the office. When you work from home, you are your own best friend, and the lack of interaction can be daunting and lonely. Even if you're employed by a company that allows you to work out of a home office, and you keep in touch with other "co-workers" throughout the day, it's not the same.
For a couple months I really struggled with feeling lonely, isolated and somewhat depressed. Although it's always one of the downsides to working from home, I managed to create a couple solutions. First, I got an office. It's not quite the same as working IN an office, but having a reason to get out of the house, to see other people (even if they weren't my co-workers), and to feel like I was DOING something went a long way toward coping with the isolation. Second, I started scheduling meetings, even if they were just with my friends. I made lunch dates with friends who worked in offices, and met for brunch or drinks, etc. with people who also had flexible time.
As you're making the decision to work from home, consider how well you are with self-motivation. If you're likely to sleep in if you can, stay in your pajamas until noon, and get distracted by the TV, it doesn't mean you CAN'T work from home, it just means that you have to be aware of the areas in which you're going to have to work harder.
If you're employed by a company and work from home, motivation may have a different effect on you because pressure still exists for you to complete work deadlines, stay plugged in with meetings and e-mail, etc. But no matter what capacity in which you are working from home, you'll be required to manage your time well.
Expectations (on you and by you)
What are going to be the constraints put upon you by your employer or your clients? Will you have to be available between certain hours? Will you need to be online? Available by phone?
Conversely, what are you looking to get out of the work-from-home experience? Do you want to be able to work till midnight and sleep in? Do you want to take Fridays off? To a certain extent, you may have to be flexible with your expectations, but you should also make your work from home goals a priority. If you're doing it to be at your kids' sports games, or so you can go out to dinner instead of being stuck at work, hang on to those goals. If you don't, you'll likely feel as if you're no better than when you were working in an office. Set aside some time to create a contract with yourself to set in stone your responsibilities, tasks, priorities and goals.
Read on for more advice on ditching the office >>